Salesian Reflection

The Power of Friendship and the Holy Spirit
Fr. Patrick Kifolo, O.S.F.S.

To be honest, I hate dealing with death. I’ve hated it since I was a kid, when I was 5 years old and my dad died. That was the beginning of a long line of wrestling with and trying to make sense of death.

It took quite a while but I finally came to understand something about it that has helped me; so we gather together today to mourn, but we also gather to celebrate life - Kelly’s life - and especially the promise of eternal life that Christ has given us. And the best way I know how to talk about this life that Christ has given us is through what has brought me comfort in dealing with the death of those I love.

Now, I know I can’t fully make sense of death, but I do hope that what I have to share will bring us some sense of comfort and peace. You see, our faith in Christ and the reading we heard from Romans assures us that “we were indeed buried with [Christ] through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead ... we too might live in newness of life.” So death doesn’t have the final say; the new, unending life, given through the resurrection of Christ has the final say.

And through baptism, Kelly has been united with Christ in his death and resurrection – so she has risen to new life in Christ - and just as Christ is always with us through the power of the Holy Spirit, so is Kelly. She is never separated from Christ – she is always with Christ. So if we’re never separated from Christ because he’s always with us through the power of the Holy Spirit, and Kelly is always with Christ, then Kelly is never separated from us. She’s always with us through the power of the Holy Spirit.

If you can appreciate that, and I hope you do, then consider this as well – if it weren’t for the power of the Holy Spirit we could do nothing, we couldn’t even breathe - we wouldn’t even exist. The Holy Spirit is constantly creating, sustaining, moving, and drawing us into communion with God. Everything around us - every atom, molecule, and element that makes up everything around us - exists and functions by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit never stops. The Holy Spirit is constantly working in and through us – always guiding, supporting, and strengthening us. So based on what I already said about Kelly always being with us through the power of the Holy Spirit, I think we can see why I can say that she’s still there for us. We can’t see her, but she’s there. She is with the Spirit - guiding us, supporting us, and comforting us ... telling us to just keep swimming.

St. Francis de Sales and St. Catherine of Siena have some beautiful things to say around someone being with us after they’ve passed, especially as it relates to friendship. St. Francis said, “This is the truth indeed... Even though our friends die, our friendship never dies. And even if it undergoes some change (in death), it is only so that it might experience a new birth.” And St. Catherine adds to this by saying that those friends who have passed before us “have a special sharing with those whom they closely loved with particular affection in the world. For in this affection for one another, they grew in grace and increased in virtue." In other words, they became better people because of their friendship, and she continues, “In the eternal life they have not lost their love for one another, but have it still, sharing intimately with one another more abundantly than before.” And then St. Francis speaks even more of what it will be like when we are finally united with those who have gone before us. He says, “In heaven we will accomplish and perfect, without end, those good and Christian friendships which we have only just begun in this world.”

One of the ways that we help one another maintain our relationship with Kelly is by sharing our memories of her - by celebrating her. And every time some thought of her comes to mind, that’s her letting you know she’s with you - because that’s her, with the Spirit, using whatever triggers that thought to say, “See, I’m with you and I’ll always be with you.”

Fr. Kifolo gave this homily as we gathered as a community at Mass to celebrate the life of Kelly Brodnik '21, who passed away after a battle with bone cancer this past weekend. 

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